I was honoured that the Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Charles Bowman, chose to visit Copylab in Glasgow. It was an enlightening meeting with Charles and his team. And I hope it will lead to a productive collaboration covering communications and improving consumers’ trust in financial services.
The myth of the Lord Mayor
The role is widely misunderstood. It’s an apolitical position, not to be confused with the elected Mayor. The Lord Mayor of London is appointed each year (Charles is the 690th) primarily to support businesses in the City of London. This is, of course, an area dominated by clusters of financial and professional services firms – and home to many of our staff and clients.
The Lord Mayor’s three-day trip to Scotland was one of more than 30 visits and trade missions he will embark on in 2018. In addition to meetings with the First Minister and Aberdeen Standard, roundtable discussions with PWC clients, and presentations to the Scottish financial community, the Lord Mayor visited a small number of Scottish SMEs to hear their stories and explore potential areas of mutual interest. Copylab was among the chosen few.
The Business of Trust initiative
One area that the Lord Mayor and I discussed in great depth was the City of London Corporation’s initiative: “The Business of Trust”. In general, consumers’ trust in institutions globally is very low. And nowhere is that more stark than in the financial services sector. The Lord Mayor’s excellent paper contains lots of interesting data, the most shocking of which to me is that fund managers are the least trusted of all the sub-groups in the financial services sector, even ranking below investment banks in the public’s estimation.
The paper is well worth a read for anyone working in financial services. It contains an agenda for change in five key areas, including recommendations covering better communication. In considering the paper’s take-aways, I believe our industry can slowly improve trust through three steps:
- Develop a personality and/or appoint a spokesperson that can truly connect and resonate with consumers. Too many asset managers are faceless and homogenous, and this makes it harder to develop a memorable brand or a trusted voice. I think Justin Urquhart-Stewart of Seven Investment Management and Neil Woodford of Woodford Funds are good examples of people who have been willing to engage with investors directly – with great success.
- Talk to people in a language they understand. Too often, still, asset managers are writing for their B2B audience. Yes, financial advisers, wealth managers and institutional investors are still important groups, but they are also human beings (just like their end customers). And human beings naturally spend more time reading websites, papers and articles that are readily accessible. I’m not just advocating jargon-free content, but also engaging and enticing copy. Newer entrants to the market are typically better at this: I’m thinking about Nutmeg and Octopus Investments.
- Talk to people through the right channels and media. Yes, that probably means social media. Financial firms are scared to death of doing anything other than broadcasting links to their latest blog post. But it doesn’t have to be that way. NS&I has a large team whose sole focus is engaging with customers on Facebook and its other social channels. Check out some of the discussions that customers are having with NS&I and the (let’s not forget, fictitious) premium-bond-number generator, Ernie.
We’re proud to be supporting the Lord Mayor of London’s ‘Business of Trust’ initiative, and believe it’s going to be an invaluable campaign that improves the British public’s perception of our industry.
You’ll be hearing more from me about the initiative over the course of 2018.